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The Cavalier, a British Brasserie, Gallops Into Soma

Carolyn Alburger | July 31, 2013 | Story Restaurants

Earlier this week, the staff at The Cavalier (360 Jesse Street) was deep into a tasting of the entire cocktail menu when I stopped in for a preview. This is the third restaurant from Anna Weinberg and chef Jennifer Puccio, the ladies who co-own Park Tavern and Marlowe. You could call it a “fempire”—at least that’s the term Weinberg’s husband, James Nicholas, throws out to define the ladies’ growing terrain in the local restaurant scene. Nicholas, mind you, is the third, more-silent, and investment-savvy co-owner in all of the group's establishments.

This restaurant, a brasserie-style spot with a London-meets-Soho vibe, is set to open on Friday, and it's certainly the team's most ambitious yet, with lavish yet stately decor by "designer to the stars" Ken Fulk and 135 seats' worth of eating and drinking real estate.

So while Weinberg, Puccio, and Nicholas are pros at the top of their game, that doesn’t mean the jitters aren’t there. During my visit, Weinberg corralled the staff for a coffee and menu huddle, then energetically furrowed her brow while scrutinizing drink after drink on the opening cocktail menu (see it here). A row of martini and Collins glasses perched on the zinc bar held various English-style libations: a Pimm’s Cup, a Royal G and T, a White Lady (“a British girly drink”) and a bramble made with market-fresh raspberries. “Who made the Whiz Bing?” said Weinberg with bravado. “I did,” a bartender piped up. “It’s really good,” she snapped back, then walked off to the kitchen to deal with the next thing. An avalanche of laughter and relief escaped from the staff as they got back to work.

Nicholas and I stepped off to the side to discuss the decor, complete with four distinct dining areas. The heartbeat of the restaurant will, most likely, be in the bar area up front, dubbed “The Blue Bar,” where Moroccan-style lanterns hang in a row overhead, across from dramatic, twelve-foot arch-top windows, a plethora of smoky teal button-tufted leather booths, and a small herd's worth of dear heads on the wall. Sand-blasted Italian white marble tiles are grouted together underfoot. The bar leads into two consecutive red-walled “main” dining areas. Off to the left, there’s a semi-private dining area with hand-painted wallpaper, depicting a fox hunt.

Based on a whirlwind London research trip to 60 restaurants in six days, Puccio’s menu fits the English theme with particular accuracy (See it here). There are lamb scrumpets (braised and fried lamb in the shape of a mozzarella stick), Welsh rarebit soufflĂ©, and Petrale sole with local samphire, a coastal succulent that’s British cousin is used on the regular in U.K. cuisine.

The team will wrap up the usual friends and family dinners tonight. There’s a big industry party on Thursday, and then it’s game time on Friday when the restaurant begins nightly dinner service at 5:30 p.m. The Cavalier will be open for dinner only until October 1, when breakfast will be added in The Blue Bar room, starting at 7 a.m., and lunch will be served throughout the restaurant starting at 11:30 a.m. With all the tech companies nearby in Soma, The Cavalier is poised to be a popular spot for power lunches, power breakfasts, power get the drift. And when night falls, Nicholas hints, there might even be something extra special for the VIPs, out of sight. Wait and see.

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